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Modules 8, 9, & 10: Class Notes

Module 8: Exhortation

Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart - Conclusion: Churches might be the best place for us to work toward the emergence of communities of character/moral discourse.

Alasdair McIntyre – After Virtue

They would argue current moral crises are not because of advances in technology, etc., but that we can’t solve problems through more specialized knowledge. More fundamental problem: collapse of the ethos. Ethos: accepted right way of doing things in a group. “We don’t do that.” The force of the ethos depends on the strength of the “we” in that statement, and our “we” has collapsed. And as always, this is a phenomenon of urbanization.

The moment of the “why not?” question is the moment ethics begin. The moment for teaching, maturity, etc.

We have an assumption today that the “why/why not” cannot be answered, because of the huge emphasis we place on individualism. Ethics becomes reduced to lifestyle choices. Relativism is so absolute that people doubt whether “why/why not” can be meaningfully asked.

Resurgence: we should try to ask these questions.

McIntyre: Intentional “communities of moral discourse”
Bellah: “communities of character,” dangers of “utilitarian individualism” aka “what works for me”

Alan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind – the relativism is so rampant that our minds are closed to the big questions about the way to live

First century Christians have a lot to add to this project. Not from an interest in looking for our answers to questions about abortion, sexuality, etc. Not nostalgia for time that’s gone.

But, like us, they lived at a moment that was experiencing dissolution of ethos in every one of big cities where Paul was preaching. People asking, “Why not do this?” Their situation is like ours, so we can dialogue with them.

Early Christian writings contain:
Paranoeo^, parakaleo^ - think alongside, call alongside

1 Thess. 2:12 “Lead a life worthy of God who calls you”

Conflict between ethos of clan and ethos of city/community/gov’t.

Ethics of private life: birth, sex, death.

In private life, Romans made little attempt to legislate. Public life restricted. Private life was laissez-faire.

Birth: Greeks and Romans (and every ancient society) except for Jews and then Christians practiced exposure. (Greeks and Romans also practiced abortion – dangerous, expensive) Just left child outside to die, dumped child in latrine. Paul makes no direct reference to abortion. Only time word appears in NT is 1 Cor. 15:8, metaphorically: ektroma (out of trauma) (responding to one who called him a sort of miscarriage, not ‘cooked’ long enough in church. All other NT writers except Luke are Jews. No need to address subject, because it wasn’t an issue. Not a Jewish practice. Sarah Pomeroy. 17% fewer girls than boys due to routine exposure.

First explicit abortion condemnation is in Epistle to Diognetus: says “we do not expose our children.” Clement of Alexandria

J.D. Crossan – A Revolutionary Life

Hilarion to Alis: "If it was a girl, put it out." 

Paul’s attitude toward the body provides an example of how he might have conducted a moral discourse about exposure.  

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 People are going to prostitutes. Saying “all things are lawful.” After all, Paul’s gospel talks about faith, not law, saving us. So why need laws?

Pompeii’s population never exceeded 30,000, yet 27 brothels found in excavation.

“korinthia kore” Corinthians girl = call girl.
“korinthiazesthai” behave like a Corinthian – fornicate

Prostitution is not only legal, but has the endorsement/relationship with pagan religion. Paul’s words come in light of that.

Corinthian church members are going to prostitutes and justifying it. This is a dialogue, not a sermon, but quoting them.
1) What is beneficial? (1 Cor. 6:12a) sumpherei – better trans. “mutually beneficial”
2) What serves freedom? (1 Cor. 6:12b) So many things in life forms of addiction, things which master us. Other stuff is enslavement.
3) God is the Lord of the body. Ethical dilemmas can’t be resolved by appealing to nature. Have to appeal to God. Nature is not sufficient ground for morality. Nature has a Creator. Body has a Creator. (1 Cor. 6:13 – appeal to nature as ground of moral choice. What comes naturally. If it feels good, is good. Cynic philosophy. Paul probably politely only quotes first part of proverb.) “God will destroy both one and the other.”
4) God raised Jesus and will raise us. Resurrection signals a future use for our body. Can’t screw up body now. Our bodies aren’t meant for death but for life. (1 Cor. 6:15)
5) Ethical choices are corporate not individual! No autonomous ethical decisions! We’re members of a larger body, the body of Christ. 3 &4 also apply to whole body of which we are just part. (1 Cor. 6:15-16)
6) The corporeal is crucial (1 Cor. 6:18) We tend to forget this because we’re convinced only spiritual is important. “It’s just physical.” But physical is crucial. Body sins are very important because it is the temple of God, and the temple doesn’t belong to you!! Body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, desecrating holy ground.

Doesn’t quote scripture (except Genesis snippet) as foundation of his argument.
Paul asks: What moral choice is consistent with God’s resurrection of Jesus and resurrection of us? We don’t just go around once in life – God has a plan for your body.
Barth: Eschatology determines ethics.
Bultmann: Eschatology is obscure mythology. Doesn’t matter what you believe. The ethical choice is to be confronted now. Climax of 1 Corinthians is chapter 13.

Module 9: Healing

Disease in the Ancient World

165-180 25%-33% mortality, Smallpox (Marcus Aurelius), Plague of Galen. (Galen fled.)


Underplayed/absent from commentary, but such a huge factor in life.

Thucydides – Peloponnesian War – Athens – priests leaving, “equally useless were prayers,” people overcome by suffering, visiting no one, dying alone

Cyprian – difference in Christian response: Measles – “The just are dying alongside the unjust. But it is not for you to think that the destruction is common for the evil and the good. The just are called to refreshment, the unjust are carried off to torture  . . . whether the well will care for the sick, whether relatives will dutifully love their kinspeople, whether masters care for slaves, physicians desert afflicted, etc.”  “We are learning not to fear death. These are trying exercises for us, not deaths.” “By our contempt for death, we prepare for the crown.”

Bishop of Alexandria, Dionysius (re: measles) “Most of our fellow Christians showed love and loyalty” “And with them, they parted this life, serenely happy.” “Many . . . in nursing others, transferred death to themselves.” Others “treated unburied corpses as dirt.” Pagan neighbours viewed some Christians who didn’t die as miracles (who we would call immune.)

Fleeing = normal. Christian response is abnormal one.

Theology/doctrine influencing social relationships.

Epidemics we suffer from: loneliness, burnout

Jesus’ healing ministry
            - not seeking attention

Mark 7:31-37, Greek Magical Papyri, Jesus does a lot of the things found in this book.

Morton Smith, Jesus, the Magician

Jesus risks identification with shaman-types in order to meet the pressing need of sick and poor.

Gerd Theissen: disease did not fall with equal hardship on all classes, Miracles Stories in the Gospel Tradition

Man with withered hand, in Codex Beza (D), man tells Jesus, “I was a stone mason and earned my living with my hands. Jesus, I beseech you to give you back my health, so that I know longer have to beg.”

Doctors served the rich. The poor turned to temples. Most and largest temples were temples of Asclepius. (Giving of ‘replica’ body parts to the god)

Slaves with diseases dumped at temples. (Cities are our dumping ground – vets, homeless, etc.)

Jesus was a healer and exorcist. Undeniable!

What do we learn?
1) Not for the sake of publicity.
2) Prevalence of exorcisms distinguishes Jesus from other healers in ancient world. They signal Jesus’ convictions about God’s power over evil. (Luke 10:17-18)
3) No less than 8 of Jesus’ cures are of deaf, dumb, blind, and lame. This is unprecedented. Hardly an accident that they are those that Isaiah names as Messianic (35:5-6), Matthew 11:4-5. Jesus is enacting the reign of God. In a world where God reigns, these intolerable constraints on human dignity cannot stand. Ministry of healing is a sign of the kingdom.

If we want to follow Jesus, we have to expose ourselves to the diseases that Jesus’ did. Poor look at him and say he does everything well, but Pharisees say his power is demonic. We run that risk.

Rodney Stark Book (Change World/Three Centuries)

Earliest evidence of hospitals attached to churches.

Ancient world: Basically, if you aren’t healed, gods aren’t with you. Very little variances in that. Constant assumption in religion!

Paul – Thorn in the flesh. We don’t know what is. God’s presence even when we are not healed. Christ’s crucifixion is truth in his own life. All of ancient religion was wrong to assume that sickness = God’s anger or God’s absence. God’s grace is sufficient without healing.


Module 10: Faith

Many current theologians say we live in a post-Christian age.

George Lindbeck – The Nature of Doctrine. Calls for catechesis of all ages as ministry of church. Indoctrinate ourselves in it, in good sense.

People have no language to express faith.

How do we go about it? Especially if nothing corresponds to our experience?

Theology – God language – are expressions that form out of the convictions of experience of divine.

Every articulation of our basic convictions (ones that supply motives) is inadequate to the mystery of God.

Rowan A. Greer – Broken Lights and Mended Lives

Risk of finding a new language of faith that does correspond to our experience of God is worth taking even if it is feeble/broken. Our broken voices can be translated into virtue.

How did the early Christians find language for their experience of God?

3rd century sarcophagus – many episodes from Bible, but the focal scene story of Jonah. Jonah is the most frequently represented in early Christian art, not only on sarcophagi, but also in frescos.

Graydon F. Snyder – Ante-Pacem

Also Daniel/lion’s den, deliverance from Egypt, Meshach, Shadrach, Abednego

Christian experience of first Christians: Deliverance from death, evil, anything that holds us in bondage, moral confusion and turmoil, addictions, etc.

Cyprian: Letter to Donatus – describes himself as Jonah, then in the peace of a bower. Cyprian delivered from a world of sin. “how great is the Empire of my mind” – no longer captive, freedom, hope.

This experience of deliverance is essential to the growth of early Christianity.

Liberation of any one poor human has an economic/political cost.

What did ordinary people in the NT world pray for?
Ramsay MacMullen – survey of ancient temples and the prayers recorded there
Paganism in the Greco-Roman World
“To Zeus, Savior, and Giver of Wealth” “To Silvanus, for freedom from slavery” “For relief from tax payment” “For a safe and successful journey” “For protection from one’s enemies” “For a safe return of my squadron” “For the safe-keeping of the colony” “For himself and his” for oxen, good harvest, for cattle, for hunting dog – utilitarian character to our need for God – we need God to be useful!

First Christians – how did they articulate their need for God to come to their aid?

Luke 10:25-37 Good Samaritan
Bailey – Poet and Peasant, Through Peasant Eyes
Levite, insubordinate middleman.
Samaritan – splanchizomai: medley of three emotions – anger/outrage, (this shouldn’t have happened), anxiety, love, most frequently used in relation to Jesus.
The man uses eleos (pity) instead of splangchnizomai in his response – Jesus who is moved by our plight.

Deliverance (salvation is traditional language)


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